by Sam Hutchins
We wound up making a few more fruitless stops on the way, so it was late when we hit St. Louis. Once again Stephane took the wheel late and got us home. As it was an unexpected stop in a town I’d never been in our office booked the hotel. Much to my amusement it was one of those awful round towers built in the late 60’s-early 70’s, similar to the Capitol records building in Hollywood.
Once you are in production on a job you receive per diem when on location. Per diem is great. It is a daily allotment of cash you are given to cover expenses, tax free up to a certain amount. You can generally live pretty well on it and still pocket part of it. You’re supposed to be paid it whenever you are on location, but companies generally screw you out of it as long as possible, telling you to submit receipts instead. As this was the case on this job, and I went without per diem for the first several months, I did what I could to even up. Stopping at the lobby bar on the way to the elevators, I ordered four glasses of Jameson and signed them and a generous tip to my room.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that my room was on a high floor and overlooked Busch Stadium. I’m a big baseball fan and would love to catch a game there sometime. As it was late and we had been focused on finding the hotel I wasn’t at all aware of its proximity. Being February at the time it was offseason. Still, the stadium was all lit up and sat like a green gem just across the river. Regrettably I didn’t think to take pictures until after I had a few in me. Four glasses of whiskey with no tripod and low light equals a series of blurry photos. Still it was a lovely sight to nod off to.
We were up and out early the next morning. Found the closest Starbucks for fuel and started exploring. As per our custom I found the train station and bus station and we explored them. We had no specific use for them yet but knowing our character was travelling throughout the film we scouted them wherever we wound up for possible use as transition shots. Union Station was pretty great.
Similar to the grand train terminals I’ve seen in Washington, New York and Philadelphia but on a smaller scale, and much more beat up and dingy. In other words, good for Kar Wai.
Both stations were on the south side, and as usual the bus station was in a particularly poor part of town. If you need to find the ghetto in any city just look for the Greyhound Station. Actually all of St. Louis was surprisingly poor, but it had great bones — lots of well-built old brick houses and apartments suffering neglect. Coming from New York City where everything is ridiculously expensive I’m always shocked when I see buildings like that. The idea that I could buy a great old townhouse in the center of a city for 25K or so and fix it up boggles the mind. Of course, then you’d be in St. Louis. No knock on the city; I just wouldn’t know what to do there.
We came across an old Falstaff Brewery, which of course brought New Orleans to mind. Why doesn’t someone buy that name and start brewing a new Falstaff? What a great name for a beer. Turning the corner I caught site of a charming looking candy store. I tried to motivate the group in that direction but no one was interested. Years later I saw Crown Candy featured on The Food Network as a place with amazing ice cream and regretted not making more of an effort. Still, it was very cold and I love Memphis so I was glad to hear the guys were ready to get going. Next stop, Tennessee.
STAY TUNED FOR THE NEXT INSTALLMENT OF THE SCOUTING LIFE.
Sam Hutchins has been working in film production for twenty years. He started as overnight security on the set of “Working Girl” while attending film school at NYU. Since 1995 he has been a location manager for some of the top names in the business. He’ll be blogging from a unique insider’s perspective on the filmmaking process, as well as speaking to his colleagues in the production community to share their experiences with you.